Last week, the Texas Legislature took steps towards fixing long-running problems in the state's child welfare system. Texas Governor Greg Abbott recognized changes to Child Protective Services as an emergency item for the Legislature. He announced it would be the top priority during his State of the State address. The Texas House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 4 and House Bill 5 which changes how the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services cares for abused and neglected children.

House Bill 5 passed with a vote of 144-0 and this legislation would make the Department of Family and Protective Services an independent agency that reports directly to the governor. Currently, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission has authority over the Department of Family and Protective Services. The goal of House Bill 5 is to provide more focus to the management of the state's child welfare system.

House Bill 4 also passed unanimously with a vote of 145-0 in the House of Representatives. This bill would allow for monthly payments to relatives caring for abused children. The legislation greatly increases "kinship care" payments to relatives and friends of a child that has been removed from their birth family. This will assist families that currently are not financially able to participate in the kinship program.

Both pieces of legislation will now be sent to the Texas Senate and referred to committee by the Lieutenant Governor. I voted to pass both House Bill 4 and House Bill 5 but there is still more work to be done in the weeks ahead.